Want room and board for a week in a medieval Spanish town? For free, no less? All you have to do is prove English is your native tongue and then speak it to your heart's content. That's it. No strings attached. Just thank Vaughan Systems, an American-operated English language school based in Spain. Specializing in one-week English immersion programs for companies located in Spain, Vaughan offers 7- to 10-day trips that provide housing and food for qualified applicants who want to spend a week of their life speaking English in Spain. No teaching experience required. Like we said, all you have to do is talk -- and talk, often. Your only out-of-pocket expense is for your transportation to the company's pick-up point in Madrid.
Founded in 2001 by Richard Vaughan, Englishtown, as Vaughan coined it, throws Spaniards and Anglos together in a totally English-speaking environment where native English speakers keep the conversation flowing all day long during meal-times, walks, games, skits and a host of other cross-cultural experiences. Last year alone, Englishtown held 45 Englishtown programs, bringing 936 English speakers from eight different countries together with 917 Spaniards hoping to improve their command of the English language in a laid-back, scenic environment. While most participants on the conversation side are American, other Anglo-speaking countries including Ireland, England and Canada were represented in 2004.
"In addition to its educational and training objective," Vaughan says, "Englishtown is the best venue in the world for inter-cultural bonding and understanding. The atmosphere is incredible once the ice is broken. Tears never fail to crown the last day, even from the tough guys."
The sign-up procedure is simple. Hit the "Apply Here" link at www.vaughanvillage.com/webfinal/signup.asp. Questions are easy and the company only asks that you be outgoing, gregarious and like to talk, a lot. Why? Because you'll be talking, a lot. But imagine the venues you'll be talking in.
Englishtown is currently in three locations in separate regions of Spain. Valdelavilla in Soria is a tiny, mountain town nestled into a five-acre valley that was abandoned in the 1960s due to a "demographic shift." Now, its stone houses and cobblestone streets are quiet refuges at an altitude of 3,000 feet. At another location in Gredos, Avila, just west of Madrid, accommodations are in four-star hotel equipped with very comfortable sleeping quarters and even Jacuzzis. The views are stellar, and the town of Gredos is filled with remnants of Roman architecture and ancient character. A third choice, La Alberca in Salamanca, is in the Castile and Leon region and dates back to the 15th century. With roots grounded in medieval Spain, blacksmiths and silversmiths still operate prolifically in the town.
Teaching trips for 2005 to Gredos are slated year-round but are more sporadic for La Alberca and Valdelavilla with most taking place from the Spring to Fall months. See www.vaughanvillage.com for all dates, details and a schedule of your conversational duties during class time. This coming year, Vaughan hopes to put together 60 similar programs.
"The conversations get pretty deep," says Vaughan. "That's the magic of it. But talking all day long can get tiring," he warns with a wink.
To read what past participants have to say about the Englishtown programs, click over to this thread on our Spain Message Boards today.